Italian Opera Origin

Italian opera is a genre of vocal music that has its origins in the 18th century. Its origins can be traced back to the culture and society of the time, specifically the desire to create a national art form that represented Italy. The first example of Italian opera is considered to be “Dafne” by Jacopo Peri in 1598, but it was with Claudio Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” in 1607 that Italian opera began to develop as a distinct genre. During the 17th century, Italian opera spread rapidly throughout Europe through the courts of princes and kings, becoming an important means of political and cultural propaganda. In the 18th century, with the birth of melodrama, Italian opera became even more popular and reached its peak with composers such as Alessandro Scarlatti, Christoph Willibald Gluck, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In the 19th century, Italian opera continued to be a popular and productive genre, with composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Giuseppe Verdi creating some of the most famous and enduring works in opera history. Italian opera continues to be representative of Italian culture and is loved around the world. In terms of its economic impact, Italian opera is an important industry for the country. Opera companies and opera theaters generate revenue through ticket sales, sponsorships, and government and private funding.

In addition, Italian opera attracts tourists from around the world, contributing to Italy’s tourism economy. However, a specific economic impact is hard to determine due the variability depending on different seasons and companies.
The global COVID-19 pandemic also has impact on the revenue of opera theaters. While it will take time to fully understand the pandemic’s long-term effects on the industry, it’s clear that the past months have been a huge blow for the opera companies and it will be a long way to recovery.

Jacopo Peri’s “Dafne” is considered to be the first opera in the history, composed in 1597 and premiered in Florence in 1598. This work marked the beginning of the Italian opera, a genre that would soon become a significant part of the country’s cultural heritage and a major contributor to the world of music.
The libretto of “Dafne” was written by Ottavio Rinuccini and it’s based on the myth of Daphne and Apollo from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The opera tells the story of Daphne, a nymph who is pursued by the god Apollo, and her eventual transformation into a laurel tree to escape his advances. “Dafne” is written in a mixture of recitatives and stanzas, and is characterized by its use of monodic singing and the accompaniment of instrumental ensemble.

Peri’s “Dafne” was a major departure from previous musical forms such as the intermedii which were performed during the interval of plays. It was the first opera which was not only a musical interlude between the acts of a play, but also it was the first standalone musical-dramatic work which was performed in public. This development in the history of opera marked the birth of a new art form, one that would evolve over the following centuries to become the powerful and beloved genre it is today.
Although Peri’s “Dafne” is not as well-known today as later works by composers such as Claudio Monteverdi or Gioachino Rossini, it is an important historical piece that set the stage for the development of opera as a distinct genre of music. It’s a cornerstone in the history of opera and an important reminder of the early beginnings of one of the most beloved and enduring art forms in the world.

It’s also important to note that the opera was not preserved and it’s only known through a fragmentary score, however, it’s still considered a crucial starting point of the opera and it set the precedent for the development of the Baroque opera . The premiere of “Dafne” was followed by other works such as Euridice, Il rapimento di Cefalo and L’Euridice, these works together with Peri’s “Dafne” are considered the beginnings of the Baroque opera tradition.

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